I've been driving about today, some training to deliver in Rye, then a meeting to attend in Lewes. I was thinking about roads because there is a sort of bypass planned locally - which doesn't seem to bypass much and consequently seems rather pointless. However, I'd had a conversation about it with a friend who was bewailing the march of concrete across the countryside and condemning roads full stop. I wonder if he's taken the time to really look when he's driving round our lovely county. I watch and watch as I drive from A to B, part of a mindful approach to life. Not in an irresponsible way, you understand, just feasting my eyes on little glimpses, in between paying "due care and attention". What did I see today?
Well, the backdrop was the Downs, which I have known all my life, rolling placidly along the south coast, gently turning their shoulders against the sky and appearing in my Grandmother's novel "...Glory Down crouched above us, a lion couchant ... wrapped in its own strength". Today they were particularly wonderful, the sky was low and low cloud - or perhaps rising fog, was spilling over their tops from the direction of the sea, just held at their peaks, but tumbling over where the folds in the hills allowed it to flow. Our Long Man was shrouded in mist and mystery. As I drove, as well as watching this marvel, I noticed in the verges and hedgerows; pink and white arching sprays of and clusters of dog rose, flat topped yarrow, native source of achillea which we so love in our gardens, spreading sheets of ox eye daisies, rosy mallow and shining buttercups, tall stands of cow parsley, ragwort, corn poppy, a long spill of vipers bugloss, shining blue blue blue and telling a tale of seed scattered in the slipstream, and woven all in between, the rippling gold of grass waving as I passed by. All of these thrive at our roadsides because the land is of no use. We forget as we drive past our green fields that, lovely as they are, they are there because humans use them to grow - plants, animals, something to eat. They are a Man made landscape. In the verges, the interstices of modern travel, there is no space for growing and so nature can thrive, undisturbed apart from the occasional mowing to maintain safe visibility. With more recent policies on roadside planting, native trees and shrubs are installed, outgrow their protective plastic collars and reach up to the sky beside the rushing traffic. All year round I watch this wonderful parade of colour, delighting in it and remembering my much younger self, leafing wistfully through the Flower Fairies, believing that all these lovelies were things of a bygone age.
Yes, I rather like roads - they give nature a slender strip of unfettered space.